Don "Big Daddy" Garlits is one of the Old Masters of drag racing. The first driver to officially break the 270km/h, 290km/h, 322km/h, 386km/h, 402km/h and 435km/h barriers on a 400m drag strip, his name is plastered across racing's many halls of fame. Last week, at 82 years old, Garlits earned another record, driving the world's fastest electric-powered drag racer to a record-shattering 296km/h on a 400m drag strip in Florida.
Garlits' car, the Swamp Rat 37 (Don's named most of his racers Swamp Rat), is powered by six GE 7.5-inch DC electric motors churning out 1500 kilowatts of power — or nearly 2000hp. Four banks of lithium-polymer batteries add up to a total of 1200 cells, juicing the motors with 420 volts at 3600 amps. Check out Garlits' website for more details on SR-37.
When Big Daddy set out on April 30, he was aiming to hit 322km/h by the end of the 400m strip. He didn't quite make it, but on the final run he tripped the lights in 7.258 seconds at 296km/h. That was enough to eviscerate the previous record of 257km/h, set in 2007 by Dennis Berube in the Current Eliminator V.
Skip ahead to 4:43 in the video to see footage of the record-breaking run from the nose camera.
Electric race cars are starting to pick up serious speed in all types of racing. In full-out land speed record racing (where the course is significantly longer than 400m), cars like the Ohio State University student-built Buckeye Bullet have topped 483km/h.
For Garlits, the record-breaking run held special significance: it's been 50 years since he broke the 320km/h barrier the first time, in 1964. Back then, his car was powered by a 6.4-litre supercharged V8 sucking down dinosaur juice. The car is nearly silent now, but it's still Don's name in the record books. The more things change... [Wired]